By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
Passengers hoping to fly to their various destinations aboard Arik Air on Thursday were left stranded as the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) withdrew their services from the airline indefinitely.
The union is accusing the airline, which has been under receivership by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), of failing to sign condition of service and recalling furloughed staff, with interventions by Minister of Aviation Hadi Siriki and Minister of Labour and Productivity Chris Ngige not yielding any positive result.
In a letter dated Tuesday, December 2, signed by NUATE General Secretary Ocheme Aba, and addressed to all Arik Staff and copied to the Commissioner of Police, Airport Commands, Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Director of State Security Service, MMIA and Airport Chief of Security, MMIA, the union directed its members to withdraw their services for the airline until further notice.
The letter reads in part:
‘As per the outcome of the Congress meeting of 2nd December 2020, and based on the fact that the Management of Arik has completely failed to respond to, in any way, to the twin demands conveyed from the previous meeting, and the ultimatum having elapsed from December 1, 2020, it is hereby directed by the National Secretariat of NUATE that all services be withdrawn from Arik Air with effect from 3rd December 2020.
‘All workers of Arik Air are enjoined to eschew any divisive tendencies and join hands to secure their present and future by cooperating with NUATE to deal decisively with this matter. This action shall persist indefinitely until all Arik workers are fully recalled, and the conditions of service is fully signed into existence.’
Daily Sun had previously reported on how the shutting down of operations at the headquarters of Arik Air by the aviation unions on September 14 had caused the airline to lose over N50 million.
A senior management source revealed exclusively to Daily Sun that the airline operates an average of 28 flights and flies a minimum of 2,000 passengers per day. The minimum cost of economy flights is about N25,000, bringing the total daily revenue to a minimum of N50 million.
On Monday, September 14, NUATE and the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) completely grounded operations in Arik Air over a disagreement with the management of the airline over non-payment of salaries and other conditions of service, leaving passengers stranded.
NUATE Secretary-General Ocheme Aba said the action became necessary following the refusal of the airline to agree to their demands. Their demands, he said, include payment of the balance of the staff salaries both for those who worked and at home during the period of the lockdown.
According to him, a circular by the Arik Air Management informed the staff during the lockdown that only 20% of staff were needed at work and promised that the 80% sent on compulsory leave would be paid 20% salaries when those on duty would be paid 50% salaries. Aba said the management only paid one month salary and till date, nothing had been paid to both those who were at work and those at home.
‘First of all, these decisions were taken unilaterally and based on labour practice, every decision that would affect the payment of workers has to be negotiated. There has to be a collective bargaining agreement, that’s the labour and yet they didn’t even keep to that promise. For people who were even coming to work, they were paying them less than 50% of their salaries and the people at home whom they say they were going to pay 20%, they didn’t pay. They paid for only one month and thereafter nothing again till date,’ Aba said.
A senior management staff informed Daily Sun that negotiations are ongoing at the airline headquarters and that an official position would be made public.